Rory Macdonald



Rory Macdonald stands out as one of the most interesting British conductors of his generation, leading stylish performances of classical and romantic repertoire whilst also relishing the chance to perform lesser-known and contemporary works.  

Rory is particularly admired for his interpretations of Mozart and Britten. He opens his 2019/20 season with a revival of Stephen Langridge’s production of Le nozze di Figaro with Gothenburg Opera, which he first performed with them at the end of last season. Other highlights this season include Thomas Adès Power Her Face with Opéra de Tours in April 2020 and the Australian premiere of Romeo Castellucci’s staging of Mozart Requiem which received its premiere by Raphaël Pichon and Pygmalion Ensemble at this year’s Festival d’Aix-en-Provence.

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Recent News

IMG Artists Signs Conductor Rory Macdonald for General Management

IMG Artists is delighted to announce the signing of conductor Rory Macdonald for General Management with immediate effect. A prolific conductor on both the opera and orchestral stages, highlights of Rory Macdonald’s current season include his debut with Frankfurt...


“The sound is rich, full and present, while the orchestral performances under Rory Macdonald are dramatically charged, colourful, and assured. (It is worth noting that earlier in his career Macdonald was an assistant to David Zinman, Iván Fischer, and Antonio Pappano. It shows.)”

[Recording of Thomas Wilson’s Symphonies no. 3, 4, and Carillon with Royal Scottish National Orchestra]


Phillip Scott

Fanfare Magazine

“Rory Macdonald draws thrilling, punchy playing from the Royal Scottish National Orchestra.”

[Recording of Thomas Wilson’s Symphonies no. 3, 4, and Carillon with Royal Scottish National Orchestra]

Graham Rickson

The Arts Desk

“Rory Macdonald and the orchestra certainly hold our attention in what is a superb performance of quite a showpiece… Performances from Rory Macdonald and the RSNO are excellent, bringing out both the colour and the argument of the music and holding us throughout all this fascinating music. This is a fine examination of the music of one of Scotland’s major figures from the later 20th century.”

[Recording of Thomas Wilson’s Symphonies no. 3, 4, and Carillon with Royal Scottish National Orchestra]

Robert Hugill

Planet Hugill

“The Gothenburg Opera’s choir and orchestra under the direction of Rory Macdonald sound just as I want that Mozart should be interpreted when it is at its best… A performance well worth seeing!” [Le nozze di Figaro with Gothenburg Opera]

Thorvald Pellby Petterson

Sveriges Radio P4

“Conductor Rory MacDonald has rightly ensured that the music feels easy and crisp. …. Mozart’s music sparkles.” [Le nozze di Figaro with Gothenburg Opera]

Carl Magnus Juliusson


“Rory MacDonald produces a performance of the highest and most electric quality for this most self-confident of symphonies… the Royal Scottish National Orchestra play for Macdonald as if they have known this music for many years.” [Album: Thomas Wilson: Symphonies Nos. 3 & 4 with Royal Scottish National Orchestra, for LINN records]

Gary Higginson

Music Web International

“Wilson’s is a big, eclectic style, and the performances are arresting.” [Album: Thomas Wilson: Symphonies Nos. 3 & 4 with Royal Scottish National Orchestra, for LINN records]

The Sunday Times

“This was a fascinating discovery. Wilson – a 20th-century Scottish composer – has clearly been overlooked. His writing is colourful, dynamic and cinematic, and it is delivered with real panache here.” [Album: Thomas Wilson: Symphonies Nos. 3 & 4 with Royal Scottish National Orchestra, for LINN records]

**** BBC Music Magazine (April 2019 edition)

“This recording is a fitting tribute to the leading Scottish composer of his generation by an orchestra who inspired and premiered his work.” [Album: Thomas Wilson: Symphonies Nos. 3 & 4 with Royal Scottish National Orchestra, for LINN records]

***** Fish Fine Music, Sydney

“A distinct and original voice……….the orchestration in the Fourth Symphony, a musical autobiography of Paisley, is especially arresting.” [Album: Thomas Wilson: Symphonies Nos. 3 & 4 with Royal Scottish National Orchestra, for LINN records]

Presto Classical, Editor's Choice (Feb 2019)

“Rory Macdonald conducts strongly committed performances of these superb, often exacting but always beautiful scores and the RSNO respond with empathy and great verve. Everyone concerned obviously believes in every note of these scores, while the whole is superbly recorded.”

Hubert Culot

Music Web International

“As often happens with composers immediately after their deaths, Wilson’s music has fallen out of circulation. Will it ever come back? Just listen to the two symphonies – Nos 3 & 4 – on this fiery new recording by the RSNO under Rory Macdonald, and there’s every reason to believe it will.”

Ken Walton

The Scotsman

“Conductor Rory Macdonald paced this piece just right and made the hymn-like central section positively sing. Helen Grime’s ‘Snow’ was more challenging, as modern music can be, yet here, too, Macdonald’s clear direction helped the audience get to the heart of a difficult piece. It was a wonderful concert by one of the country’s finest orchestras [BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra] at the top of its form, under the baton of an outstanding young conductor”

William Crossan

Campbeltown Courier

“…the rock-solid musicality of conductor Rory Macdonald, and a display by the Opera Queensland chorus and the QSO rich in insight and verve, this is a Grimes that Brisbane can be immensely proud of.”

Maxim Boon

4.5* ArtsHub (September, 2018)

“Queensland Symphony Orchestra – who sat magnificent on centre stage with the performers acting around them, using just a handful of props – managed to conjure up the swells and sighs of the sea under the acclaimed Scottish conductor Rory Macdonald.”

Clarissa Sebag-Montefiore

The Guardian (September, 2018)

“The Queensland Symphony Orchestra and conductor Rory Macdonald are heroic in their playing of this masterpiece. To single out a particular section would not suitably reflect the quality of playing that maestro Macdonald drew from the orchestra. Some highlights were the shimmering unison strings in the first sea interlude, a magnificently balanced and clear brass section throughout, and a gorgeous viola solo in the Passacaglia.”

Trevor Jones

The Conversation (September, 2018)

“Macdonald emerged from the start as a force to reckon with. His close control of the opener, Stravinsky’s Dumbarton Oaks, breathed sunlight and air into an overtly programmatic piece that characteristically tends towards the surreal. Winds and brass could easily have outshone strings in this 15-piece ensemble, but were held in pleasing balance. Further tribute to Macdonald’s instant romance with WASO came after the break, with two firm favourites given a fresh gloss. Prokofiev’s Lieutenant Kije suite, full of nouns and verbs in its paean to a fake news hero, can be folkloric romp or, more true to history, an ironic essay on the folly of power. From the first, faint offstage trumpet, through birth, romance, wedding and the Troika — etched in the imagination, with or without verbs — to the funereal tones and haunting distant bugle call of the ending, Macdonald had his best kid gloves on. At the last, Ravel’s Bolero was a masterclass in anticipation, a languid baton caressing the unseen dancer into almost tangible form (pun intended). As the pace and intensity rise, it is all too easy for cohesion to collapse — un-Ravel, even — as has happened in WASO’s hallowed past. But here, passion and polish were in lock step, right to the roiling conclusion.”

David Cusworth

The West Australian (May 2018)

“This opera also marked the rare occasion in which I had a great view of the conductor, and watching Rory Macdonald in action was itself a spectacle. The maestro mouthed along much of the lyrics, acted in part as a prompter to the singers and was assured and in control in the pit with so much occurring on stage. His orchestra produced a delightful, breezy rendition of Auber’s score. Macdonald was as much a star as anyone on stage.”

Santosh Venkataraman

Opera Wire

“[Rory Macdonald] struck the perfect balance between wit and melodrama and led a lively performance of Auber’s frothy score. The Rome Opera’s excellent orchestra and chorus joined in the fun.”

Seen and Heard International

More Reviews

“Taking over Lyric’s Mozart wing from Andrew Davis, Scottish conductor Rory Macdonald led a crisp and nuanced performance, within often brisk tempos that did not crowd the singers, or on the other hand, allow the long Mozart line or rhythms to slacken. His interpretation drew on alert, well-balanced playing from the orchestra, and robust singing from director Michael Black’s admirable chorus…”

Chicago Tribune

“Conductor Rory Macdonald proved a solid Mozart hand in the pit, providing vitality and sensitivity as needed… The Lyric Opera Orchestra played with enviable sparkle and freshness, even in this familiar score.”
Chicago Classical Review, December 2016

“Lyric’s pit orchestra bring Mozart’s beloved score buoyantly to life under the sensitive baton of Rory MacDonald, who makes sure the action and energy never flag.”
Chicago SunTimes, December 2016